Celebrating the Best Irish Grasslands
Ireland is green with grassy fields. They are part of our natural and cultural heritage, but some are different from others.
Grasslands with the highest biodiversity are called semi-natural grasslands. They are managed with low levels of inputs such as fertilisers. They are hugely important reservoirs for biodiversity, supporting a diverse range of plant and animal species.
Semi-natural grasslands also perform a wide range of other ‘ecosystem services’ such as supporting healthy soils which keeps carbon sequestered when left unploughed. They help regulate floods, and provide food for us, our livestock and for a wealth of wild creatures.
Some types of Irish semi-natural grasslands are listed for protection in the EU Habitats Directive. These are now among the most threatened habitat types in Ireland due to changes in agriculture over the past 50 years. Semi-natural grasslands can be lost to abandonment, agricultural improvement or afforestation.
To prevent their loss and protect these habitats and their diversity, they must be managed. This means being grazed or cut at least occasionally, or they quickly create a dense thick sward with a heavy litter layer of dead grasses. Very few species can tolerate these conditions.
Great Irish Grasslands is a project led by a group of scientists and enthusiasts who are dedicated to sharing information about semi-natural grasslands, a national treasure which is often hidden in plain sight.